Top PAYG phone plans compared

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In a world of cheap unlimited monthly phone plans and 24 month contracts that cost a lot, PAYG (pay as you go) plans are still fighting – and some are pretty popular. PAYG phone plans are beneficial because you only pay for what you use. While you’ll usually have to pay an initial set-up fee or recharge your plan with some credit, if you’re a light phone user, or just like flexibility, a PAYG phone plan may be for you. Review the top PAYG phone plans in Australia with Canstar Blue.

What is PAYG?

‘Pay as you go’ (or PAYG) is like how using a mobile phone plan was in the good old days. You usually recharge with a set amount of credit with no obligation to keep recharging, and you only pay for what you use. Some providers even carry long-expiries such as 180 or 365 days so you can last six months or an entire year before worrying about your phone plan again.

While these are obviously good options for a spare phone or a light user, many more customers simply like the flexibility it affords. They’re also good for if you’re going away for a longer period of time, but still want to keep your number. As the term ‘recharging’ suggests, these deals are usually on a prepaid basis, meaning you only pay whenever you want to use your phone and that when credit runs out you aren’t charged excess fees.

The Top PAYG Phone Plans

There are a number of popular Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) that provide PAYG phone plans, with some even offering plans that last a whole year. These providers include:

Most MVNOs offer recurring recharges that last either 28 or 30 days, but these guys stand out for offering the low-maintenance PAYG alternative. The big guys also offer PAYG plans as you might expect:

ALDI Mobile PAYG Plans

ALDI Mobile is a popular choice, consistently rating well in our customer satisfaction ratings for prepay phone plans. ALDI Mobile offers two PAYG plans – $15 or $30. Both last for 365 days, but the beauty lies in the detail:

  • Calls are 12c/minute
  • Texts are 12c each
  • MMS is 35c each
  • Data is 5c/megabyte

These rates are pretty cheap – especially for the calls with no flagfall – and you could theoretically have up to 250 minutes of call time, or 250 texts with the $30 plan. International numbers also start as low as 10c a minute and you can recharge as you like. ALDI SIMs are available in-store, or you can purchase online. You can also recharge your plan through SMS. ALDI Mobile operates on the Telstra 4G Network.

Amaysim PAYG Plans

Amaysim has also been a top performer in our customer satisfaction ratings, and it offers identical plans across both the postpaid and prepaid payment methods. However, for PAYG you are obviously using a prepaid recharge system. Operating on the Optus 4G Network, Amaysim has one $10 SIM available with a 365 day expiry period where you get $10 credit and you can recharge as you see fit, with rates going pretty cheaply:

  • Calls are 12c/minute
  • Texts are 12c each
  • MMS is 49c each
  • Data is 7.2c per MB

While these call and text rates are comparable to ALDI Mobile, the MMS and data rates are slightly more expensive. These extra rates can add up in the long run, but for a cheap and easy PAYG plan, Amaysim is a compelling option.

Dodo Mobile PAYG Plans

Dodo is another Optus network MVNO that offers some cheap PAYG long-expiry plans. It has six plans in total – priced $10 to $100. Generally the higher in price you go, the longer your credit lasts, with $100 lasting for 365 days and being the only plan to do so. Dodo seems to undercut some of the competition with some cheap rates:

  • 11c/minute calls
  • 11c texts
  • 5c/MB data
  • 35c MMS
  • International rates from as little as 2c a minute

Users are charged for data by the megabyte, not kilobyte as with some other providers. However, the cheap call and text rates are hard to ignore. You can also get data add-ons, starting at $10 for 1GB, but these expire after 30 days. So if you need a top up in a particular month, these could be a good option.

TPG PAYG Plans

TPG has a pretty interesting plan that costs just $1 every month. You get 50MB for your trouble, and beyond that you have to preload your plan with credit to proceed. You also get slugged a $30 set-up fee, making the first month quite prohibitive, especially in terms of what you get in return.

  • Calls are 9.9c per minute plus 10c flagfall
  • Texts are 9.9c each
  • Excess data is 10c/MB
  • MMS is 60c each

TPG’s option may be for the more regular PAYG user, but keep in mind you can expect to pay at least $1 every month, and if you need data you’ll be slugged double per MB compared to some other providers. TPG operates off the Vodafone 4G Network, but is building its own network set for release in the next few years.

Virgin Mobile PAYG Plans

Virgin Mobile has a comparatively large range of PAYG and long-expiry prepaid phone plans. Starting with “prepaid that goes the distance”, Virgin has six long-expiry plans on offer, starting from just $15. There are three 180-day plans, and three over 365-days.

  • Calls to other Virgin users are 5c a minute with a 40c flagfall
  • Calls to non-Virgin users are 78c a minute with a 40c flagfall
  • Texts to other Virgin users are unlimited, while they cost 28c each otherwise

Also on offer are ‘Simple’ plans, which are over 90-days, and may offer better value. There are five plans on offer, from $19 to $99 and each plan has 100mb data to use as well. Rates are:

  • 15c/minute calls
  • 15c texts
  • Excess data is $2.05/MB

While you may be lured in by the cheap call rates, be wary of any excess data charges, as simply loading a Facebook page can use over 20MB! Virgin Mobile uses the Optus 4G Network.

Optus, Telstra and Vodafone PAYG Plans

This list wouldn’t be complete without the big three carriers in Australia. Generally they offer pretty like-for-like PAYG plans but may differ slightly on call, text and data rates.

Optus PAYG Plans

Optus offers a fairly concise range of PAYG long expiry plans, some with expiries from 45 days, and as high as 365 days. Prices range from $10 to $60, and you get to rollover your credit up to $500 if you recharge before the expiry date. Rates for long expiry plans are:

  • 20c/minute calls
  • 20c texts
  • 5c/MB data

Telstra PAYG Plans

Telstra offers two fairly exciting PAYG categories – ‘Simplicity’ and ‘Long Life’ plans. Simplicity plans feature simple flat rates for calls and texts, and have expiries that range from 30 to 180 days. The rates are:

  • 15c/minute calls
  • 12c texts
  • 20c international texts
  • 10c/MB data

Telstra Long Life plans, on the other hand, come with a minimum 60 day expiry, with the $70 and $100 recharges lasting 12 months. The rates are:

  • Calls 78c per minute with 39c flagfall
  • Texts are 29c each
  • PAYG extra data rate is $2 per MB

As you can see, data is an expensive commodity, so if you’re wanting to PAYG, you might want to switch mobile data off unless in emergencies. Nevertheless, if you’re after the “network without equal” with supreme coverage – say for a holiday in the Tasmanian wilderness or some such – Telstra may be worth a look into.

Vodafone PAYG Plans

Vodafone has a range of long expiry phone plans, which are a bit of a change of pace from the other big providers in Optus and Telstra. Plans are priced from $10 and recharges last 365 days. The rates are:

  • 20c/minute calls
  • 20c texts
  • 2c/MB data
  • International rates from 3c/minute

As you can see, the data rates are very cheap compared to a lot of other providers, so if you need to use a bit of data, Vodafone may be worth a look into.

Is a PAYG phone plan worth it?

PAYG phone plans benefit from being low-maintenance, low in cost, and long in recharge times. Many come with cheap call and text rates too. However, if you’re even more than a very occasional mobile phone user, you may struggle to see value in a PAYG plan, especially when $20 or so can diminish pretty quickly. This is also especially when unlimited phone plans with 1GB of data are as little as $15 a month these days, so heavier phone users may like to look elsewhere. Adding insult to injury is the fact that some service providers charge $2 or more per megabyte of data used, so even casually browsing email or Google can become an expensive affair.

PAYG is good for spare phones, those wanting a low-maintenance phone plan, those heading abroad for a while and wanting to keep their number, or for elderly people. The large majority of people out there who depend on their mobile phone day to day may be able to find better value elsewhere.

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